High-quality teaching, differentiated for individual pupils, is the first step in responding to pupils who have or who may have SEN.

The importance of assessment in identifying dyslexia

Lorraine Petersen, OBE

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 has two very clear messages about the teaching of pupils with SEN.

Every teacher is responsible and accountable for all pupils in their class wherever or with whoever the pupils are working.

High-quality teaching, differentiated for individual pupils, is the first step in responding to pupils who have or who may have SEN.

This means that all teachers should understand what high quality teaching and differentiation means in their school whilst at the same time understanding if this is happening and pupils are still not making progress where should they go next. This will involve carrying out a variety of assessments to try and identify specific needs.

A 'hidden disability'
Dyslexia is a “hidden disability” and exhibits a number of complex difficulties not just with literacy but with memory, processing, organisation and sequencing. It is of the utmost importance that identification takes place as early as possible to ensure that intervention strategies are put in place immediately.
There are a number of ways that a teacher can do this within their own classroom as a first response.

  • Observation – Use a dyslexia checklist when observing how a pupil is interacting in the classroom, accessing their learning and how the environment may be affecting them.
  • Phonological skills – Use a phonological checklist to determine how well the pupil is able to recognise the identity and order of sounds within spoken words.
  • Reading – You can check reading skills using a standard reading test but you may need to delve deeper by using a miscue analysis approach and/or assessment to test comprehension skills.
  • Spelling – Use a standardised spelling test to gain information about the difficulties a child may be encountering.
  • Writing – Use a Sentence completion test to assess the writing difficulties a pupil may be having.  You may find that the amount that is written in a given time will be reduced due to difficulties with spelling. This is also indicated by a piece of written work that contains mainly simple words.
  • Use games to assess a pupil’s visual and auditory sequential memory.

The teacher can also use a Dyslexia Friendly Classroom checklist to ensure their room is accessible for all pupils.

Screening for dyslexia
Once the teacher has gathered the evidence from the above and recorded the information, they should work with the SENCO to develop intervention strategies and tools to support the pupil.

The SENCO may decide that there is a need to carry out a screening test to indicate or confirm that there are possible dyslexic difficulties. This does not give a diagnosis but will offer a clear picture of an individual’s needs.

Lucid Rapid and Lucid Lass from GL Assessment will identify dyslexic tendencies in pupils aged 4– 15 and offers intervention strategies for teachers to use in their classroom.
This could be followed by Dyslexia Portfolio by GL Assessment which will help teachers to identify the key areas of difficulty and enable them to target interventions in a precise way.

The information gathered from these screening tests will help the teacher plan their teaching to ensure that the pupil is able to access the curriculum and learn alongside their peers.
The strategies and tools put in place will become normal ways of working and will therefore provide an evidence bank should the pupil require support in tests and examinations.

While all of this initial assessment can be carried out by the teacher and/or SENCO the school may decide that for those pupils with more severe difficulties they engage with an Educational Psychologist or Specialist Teacher who will be able to offer assessments of a more diagnostic nature.

Follow Lorraine on Twitter @lorrainep1957.